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Work to begin on railroad that connected the two Koreas

Seoul plans to pursue the rebuilding of the line into the Korean demilitarized zone once North Korea agrees to the project.

By Elizabeth Shim
Work to begin on railroad that connected the two Koreas
A barbed wire fence guards the Freedom Bridge, connecting South Korea to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and North Korea as a train crosses it from Seoul in 2013. Seoul previously has worked on other railroad recovery projects including the Gyeongui Line in 2003 and the Donghae Line in 2006 but plans to connect the lines to North Korea were dropped. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- South Korea is to begin construction on an abandoned inter-Korea railroad that ceased operations 70 years ago.

The 139-mile Gyeongwon Railroad, built in 1914, once ran from Seoul to the North Korean port city of Wonsan and was primarily used for freight transport, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported.

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The train tracks that connected the two cities were shattered during the 1950-53 Korean War and abandoned for decades, but Seoul said it is rebuilding segments of the line on the South Korea side in hopes of laying a foundation for unification.

The first two phases of reconstruction are expected to cost Seoul $129.8 million – and a 3.5-mile segment of the railroad was completed in November 2012.

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In October, Seoul is expected to launch a full-scale recovery of 13 miles of the railroad that stops at the DMZ.

South Korea press reported Seoul plans to pursue the rebuilding of the line into the Korean demilitarized zone once North Korea agrees to the project.

Seoul is taking the steps ahead of the 70th anniversary of Korea's independence from Japanese colonial rule and putting South Korean President Park Geun-hye's "Eurasia Initiative" into action.

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Park's plan calls for reconnecting South Korea's transportation networks to the Trans-Siberian Railway that connects northeast Asia to Europe.

South Korean television network KBS reported 200 government officials are scheduled to attend a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday.

Recently appointed Unification Minister Hong Yong-pyo is expected to be in attendance, along with Na Kyung-won, the chairwoman of the parliamentary foreign affairs committee.

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Seoul previously has worked on other railroad recovery projects including the Gyeongui Line in 2003 and the Donghae Line in 2006 but plans to connect the lines to North Korea were dropped.

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